Kabul, Islamabad enter new blame game
KABUL (PAN): Afghan officials and political observers on Monday rejected as baseless assertions by Pakistan's foreign ministry officials that Islamabad was finding it difficult to work with President Hamid Karzai in making peace with rebels.
"Right now, Karzai is the biggest impediment to the peace process," a top Foreign Ministry official in Islamabad told Reuters news agency. "In trying to look like a savior, he is taking Afghanistan straight to hell."
He said Karzai, seeking peace on his own terms, was also worried that the United States might cut a quick and risky deal with the Taliban in order to get the bulk of its forces out of Afghanistan by the end of next year.
But Afghan Foreign Ministry spokesman Janan Musazai said the allegations were baseless and the Afghan government strongly condemned them. He insisted Karzai believed in peace and had struggled over the past many years to achieve that goal.
The Afghan government would continue to make sincere efforts at achieving peace and stability, Musazai promised, saying Kabul expected Islamabad to lend practical and significant support for stabilising Afghanistan.
Pakistani officials also said they were discouraged by what they called Karzai's erratic statements and provocations. "I have absolutely no doubt that there will be complete chaos in Afghanistan if a settlement is not reached by 2014."
But Aziz Khan, a former Pakistan ambassador to Afghanistan, said it was not right to pin all blame on Karzai. "Everyone is hedging their bets at this point: the Pakistanis, the US, the Afghan government and the Taliban…No one has been clear about what they want in Afghanistan."
The unnamed officials said although Pakistan would maintain contacts with Karzai, it was stepping up engagements with the Taliban, Washington and other parties to promote reconciliation.
"There is no other option but reconciliation - with or without Karzai," said one official. "If he continues to be this stubborn, he and his High Peace Council will naturally be sidelined."
In response, Musazai said: “The democratically elected president of Afghanistan has invested an unprecedented amount of political capital and effort in building confidence and trust with Pakistan over the past decade.”
However, he regretted, Kabul’s sustained efforts had yet to be reciprocated by Islamabad. Afghanistan’s overtures of greater confidence, trust and cooperation had routinely been ignored, he continued.
“Peace is an undeniable right and desire of the vast majority of the Afghan people and the peace process belongs to them. As we’ve reiterated time and again, the success of the process is not only needed for lasting peace in Afghanistan but is a precondition for lasting security in Pakistan, too.”
Prof. Wadeer Safi, Political Science Department head at the Kabul University, claimed the Pakistanis were trying to hide their own "bad intentions" through making such assertions. He said Pakistan had proved its aversion to peace in Afghanistan on many occasions.
The Pakistani officials cited several examples of how Karzai has blocked peace efforts. At a conference in January, for example, he insisted there would be no more "backdoor" contacts, a second official said.
On the other hand, the Afghans said Karzai remained recommitted to the peace campaign, but wanted to ensure it was Afghan-driven.
Mohammad Hassan Haqyar, a political expert, rejected the allegations as untrue, insisting Karzai had always shown his readiness to enter parleys with the Taliban and had invited them to talks on many occasions.
He said the president called the Taliban his brothers. “Pakistan itself is a big hurdle to the peace process in Afghanistan because it has stakes in an unstable Afghanistan,” he observed.
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